HOW DO YOU CREATE A RELATABLE CHARACTER

There are arguably many ways to create a good character. In this blog, I will focus on the aspects that would make a character in my story a great one. But first, I want to look back on a character that I did not relate to. In other words, what NOT to do when creating a character.

Arren from Earthsea


Like most others, I generally like Studio Ghibli’s movies. However, this is one that I simply did not grow to like. It bothered me quite a bit until I read this review:

Problem Protagonists: Tales from Earthsea


In summary, there are a couple of elements that a character needs to have for them to not only be likeable, but also make the story work. This then brings me to the next question – how does one make a hero? And how does that hero complement the storyline? Watch this, and you will know.

Someone shared this video with me, which I thought is quite eye-opening. Given that my story takes place in a world that doesn’t exist, it is especially important to find ways to make my main character relatable. In this case, a ‘hero’ doesn’t refer to someone who saves the day… it refers to someone who overcame a huge challenge in some way. And isn’t this something we do every day?

On a separate note, these materials led me to think that the characters and plots should be developed at the same time. This way, I would not be doing ‘excess’ work, which I hear is often the danger when planning stories.

But back to character development. There are many ways to do this, and once again, I found a helpful template about character development in reedsy.

The blog goes into great detail about how one can create a character from scratch. It is especially helpful to someone like me, who is the type to focus on the big picture. Part 3, which refers to the psychology of the character, resonates with me the most as it likely has the greatest impact on how the story progresses. In contrast, the character’s physical appearance and background have less of an effect. However, they are the main aspects that give a character their shape, which helps readers to imagine the story in greater detail.

Finally, we should consider the different types of characters and how they relate to the main character. For them to be believable, these characters need their backstory too. reedsy has yet another good blog on this. Honestly, I am starting to wonder what they do NOT have for aspiring writers.

12 Types of Characters Featured in Almost All Stories

The one that intrigued me the most is the foil, whose job is to make the main character’s traits shine out more. I have never thought deeply into this character type before, but now that I look back on one of my favourite animes (Cardcaptor Sakura) from when I was a kid, I can see why the existence of such a character will be useful. In this anime, Syaoran is probably Sakura’s foil. He even went on to become her canon love interest!

Anyways, this seems like a good spot to end the blog for now. If I were to look even deeper, I will probably never get started on the actual writing. So until next time, bye!   

WORDS TO USE INSTEAD OF ‘SAID’

I THINK one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to writing is to create compelling dialogue. This makes sense, considering that I lean towards being more logical than emotional. I often feel like my characters sound like robots instead of living, breathing beings. So, how does one write emotional dialogue and in effect, make their characters come alive? Also, what other words can I use instead of ‘said’, ‘stated’ or ‘commented’?

 Here is the best articles I have found in my quest to obtain tips:

 Dialogue words: Other words for ‘said’

 I like this article because it goes BEYOND suggesting alternatives to ‘said’. It also teaches you on how to craft a scene by bringing together the setting, words and actions of a character. It then listed alternatives to said, grouped together by the primary emotion you want your character to express.

 In response to this, I figured I should do a quick exercise myself. I went to another website, grabbed a list of emotions (with some redactions) and started churning out ‘synonyms’ without referencing to any source. I also gave myself a bit of freedom and allowed short phrases. Then, I beefed it up with more research.

Admiration/Adoration/Awe
sighed wistfully,giggled, marveled, raved

Amusement
chortled, chuckled, snickered, sniggered, teased

Anxiety/Awkwardness
squeaked, stuttered, urged, stressed, babbled, blubbered, stammered

Annoyance/Anger
screamed, hollered, yelled, cursed, grumbled, shouted, bellowed, stressed, fumed, snarled, ranted, complained, grunted, mocked, criticised, bleated, interrupted, nagged, barked  

Boredom
sighed, muttered, drawled, trailed off

Calmness
stated, spoke in measured tones, maintained, articulated, commented, communicated, opined

Confusion
wondered aloud, puzzled, guessed, pondered, questioned, repeated

(Sexual) Desire
moaned,teased, tittered, whispered, beckoned, flirted, crooned

Pain
yelped, hissed, roared, groaned, yelled

Excitement
exclaimed, chattered, gushed, raved,

Fear/Horror
yelled, uttered, quavered, screamed, warbled,

Interest
hummed with interest,whispered in excitement, squealed,

Joy
exclaimed, yelled, laughed, gushed, praised, sang,

Sadness
cried,sobbed, mumbled, lamented, snivelled, trembled, beseeched

Sympathy
reassured, cooed, consoled, comforted

Triumph
exclaimed, declared, commanded, bragged, boasted, trumpeted

Other banter words
bantered, quipped, breathed, challenged, guessed, hinted, implied, hypothesized, proposed

I’ll take a pause here as it has been a long and tiring work week for me. One day, I shall wade through synonym.com for even more alternatives. Until next time!
  

BASICS OF WORLD-BUILDING

What are effective ways to build an imaginary world? What are the elements to consider?

 Sources of Information: Thankfully, we live in a time where google exists. And thanks to COVID-19, there is even less incentive to visit a library to carry out such research. One other possible source is cross-referencing the worlds of published books. While this will definitely take much more time, I also believe it is where the most significant lessons can be learnt. But for now, I will stick to what I can get from Google to jump-start my personal world-building. 

And you know what? Just from reading a couple of blogs, I’ve already gotten ideas of how I can twist my very cliché medieval world into something far more original! Or at least, I hope it is. 

 First up is a blog by Kristen Kieffer. She was an unknown to me before this, but in this blog, she essentially laid out every critical component of a believable world:

An Introduction to World-Building

I think it will be useful to examine the links between each world component. For example, if your character lives in a desert-like environment, then the food culture should probably reflect that. When I think of deserts, I also think of cactuses. Perhaps that can be weaved into the storyline to show how deep this imaginary world runs.

After a cursory exploration of other blogs, I realized that the content was rather similar. Basically, it is all about analyzing what makes up OUR world (the earth) and then break it down to various components so that they can be re-imagined.

The only component that I saw in other blogs but was not mentioned in the one above is languages. (Granted, she has another post only that talks about fictional languages.) As a linguist, this one will be of particular interest to me. In another blog, I also learnt that J. R. R. Tolkien started his world-building with a fictional language! 

From my studies in linguistics, I know that the structure of a language often reflects the history and culture of a community. It is most definitely a rich source of inspiration and one I fully intend to take advantage of. 

All of the above led me to consider developing a template to world-building for me and for others. And then I figured someone else probably already did this. I was right!

Worldbuilding: the Master Guide (with Template)

I got the template and then discovered reedsy is a hub of sorts for aspiring and published authors. On it, I can engage editors, designers and everything! There are even free courses on self-publication that I can take. All in all, it is rather exciting that I can add one more resource to my authorship toolbox. 

And now, here’s a video on world-building that was shared to me! In this video, the author takes a more carefree approach to world-building. However, it is clear that the same aspects are revisited again and again. The part that is new is the notion of consistency. For a world to be believable, there must be some kind of system or series of laws. This definitely gave me something to think about!

And now, I am off to get lunch and work on my revised world. When I have more thoughts on world-building, which will probably come in when I read some fantasy books, I’ll come back here with updates. 

Update: Added in How to build a Fictional World by Kate Messner

A ‘PLOT DEVELOPMENT & WRITING PREPARATION’ CHECKLIST

Before you write a story, you need a plot. While I absolutely adore coming up with plots, writing it out terrifies me. Like most others, I tend to second guess every step I take. So to counter that, I figured I should do two things in conjunction – research on how to develop a good plot and how to prepare myself for writing. Each of these bullet points below should eventually link up with another blog post. Therefore, being able to link all of them up will instil a sense of achievement in me.

Of course, I might come back at a later time to add one or two new bullet points. Refining the process is important too, no?

Please note that I did ZERO research before writing this out, so everything is basically a culmination of my not-so-professional writing experience since I was ten.

Checklist

Plot Development

1) How does one create a fictional world? What are the elements to consider?
2) How does one develop characters? How do you make them relatable/lovable/someone you love to hate?
3) How do you craft a storyline based on the developed world and characters?
4) Read at least 20 summaries of published books.
5) Read one (or more) book(s) that belong to the same genre I aim to write in.

Writing Preparation

1) How does one self-publish a book? On what platform(s) can a book be published?
2) Where and how can you engage an editor? Should you even engage one?
3) What are the words that you can use to replace ‘said’?
4) How should you write a prologue? How do you split a story into chapters?
5) How do you make the speech of characters sound natural?

I’ve decided five questions for each segment will do for now. In time, I will revisit this blog and refine the questions as I see fit. Also, if you somehow found your way to this blog and would like to add to the above process, please do not hesitate to leave a comment! I would love to hear from anyone 🙂

Content Update Tracking

29th June – Publication of Article
4th July – Added my first link to world-building!
7th July – Added my link to ‘said’ alternatives
15th July – Added my link to character development